Emery County Business Summit Part II A discussion on nuclear power plant
At the recent Emery County Business Chamber Economic Summit, Tom Retson from Blue Castle Holdings was the breakfast speaker. Retson explained to the audience the preparations that are being made for the proposed nuclear power plant near Green River. Retson said one of the questions he gets all the time is why can't the project happen faster. He said there is an extensive permitting process that must be followed and it takes years for approval. Blue Castle Holdings has its chief operations office in Provo. They recently acquired Willow Creek Companies from Grand Junction, Colo. which is an oil, gas and water pipeline company. Willow Creek is active now in pipeline installation projects.
Retson said Blue Castle Holdings spent four years looking for a site for the nuclear power plant. The company is developing new electrical capacity, but is not a utility. As the project expands utilities will become involved and the output of the plant will be owned by utilities. Retson said they are proud of the team put together to see this project to fruition. Aaron Tilton has been involved in coal power development, Dr. Diaz is the former chairman of the nuclear regulatory commission and he's involved in the project as well as Reed Searle and now Russ Fowles the president of Willow Creek. "It gives the public a feeling of confidence to have these types of people involved. We chose the Green River site because of the railroad, highway and the transmission line. There are people who want economic development in your area. Your county has such experience with power companies. All these factors will be helpful to our company. It makes it easier to get a project like this going and its a compliment to you."
There will be two units constructed and the megawatts could be 2,200-3,200 depending on the technology the company chooses to proceed with. Water from the river will run in a pipeline to the site of the plant.
Audience members asked many questions one of which was: what is the current status of the water for the project. Retson said in January 2010, there was a public hearing for the water in Green River. There are those that don't want the company to use the water. The company has two existing leases. These water leases were assigned and approved for coal fired plants that were never built, so Blue Castle purchased this water. The only thing Blue Castle wants to do with their water is change the off-take location. The water change of out-take location hasn't been approved by the state water engineer yet. Retson said they are confident the company has done everything possible to respond to all the comments.
Retson said Emery County Economic Development Director Mike McCandless has been very helpful with their project.
Retson was asked if the company plans to hire local people, he answered yes they do and have already, road work and site work has been done by Bo Harrison from Green River. The site has a number of monitors from the drilling and these monitors will be read and information gathered by local workers. Retson said labor costs are reduced if you hire your workers from the local area and don't have to relocate a large number of workers. The workers here have a wide variety of skills with the power plant backgrounds. There will be many opportunities for locals. Work involving pumps, valves, electrical, controls are all similar to coal fired power plants. "People with those kinds of training is what we need. During the peak of construction we will have approximately 4,000 workers. We will try to the extent we are involved to hire locals. Other companies that help with the construction will make their own decisions. After the unit is constructed it will take 800 workers to operate and maintain the plant. Workers will need to be trained for specific power plant functions," said Retson. It was mentioned the local college could be a factor in helping train workers.
Retson was asked if the plant has a flood plan. He said the flood plan is included in the general operating plan for the plant and this plan will be reviewed by the nuclear regulatory commission as part of the permitting process. Dr. Diaz is the safety expert for the back-up systems. Retson said the nuclear plant facility is 110 feet above the river so flooding is unlikely.
The plant is currently in the licensing phase and data is being collected. This phase alone will cost the company $110 million. Blue Castle Holdings won't know if they have permission to build the power plant until they get through the licensing phase. Funding to this point has been through Blue Castle Holding's own endeavors. They traded equity in the project when they acquired Willow Creek. The project is definitely a long term investment.
Retson said he looks forward to the day when housing for workers for the project will present a challenge because that will mean the go ahead for the project has been given and he looks forward to having that set of problems. He said their company will do what they can, but he expects the private sector to jump in and prepare for the project once it gets the go ahead. He sees many economic opportunities at that time. The earliest construction can take place will be 2014 or 2015 with the plant coming on line between 2021 and 2022.
There is an area on site that will be used for storage of the nuclear fuel waste. All nuclear power sites in the US store their own waste on site. It is typically stored in water for a number of years and then transferred into dry storage in another location on the property of the power plant. It is planned to be associated with the site for the full license time frame of the plant which is planned to be 60 years. One of the reasons that on site storage is preferred is that it minimizes the transportation of the material. The safest way to manage the waste is by moving it as little as possible.
It is not a huge amount of waste. During the life of the plant, the waste from the power plant would fit in a large room. This storage site can be used for 60 years. Used uranium is put in casts for storage.
The fuel bundles will stay in the reactor building for 10 years while they cool and then it will be put in the storage area. "When you take the uranium bundle out of the core, the isotopes that give off the heat that makes the electricity, 90 percent of those are unspent and can be reprocessed, taking the fuel out and separating the waste. The unused uranium can be reinserted, reused and recycled."
Retson said this reprocessing doesn't make sense unless the cost of uranium is very, very high. The uranium can be stored safely until it makes sense to reprocess it.
Retson believes the nuclear process all to be very safe. One audience member commented on how they had toured a nuclear facility on a college campus in California where they produce their own electricity for the college and it was very safe.
There is naturally occurring radiation all around. The people in the nuclear power plant wear a badge that measures radiation. The track record of nuclear power is very safe. At 104 operations in the United States, since 1972 there hasn't been anyone killed on the job, which is excellent. Very few other industries can say that.
New technology has come a long way for safety in a nuclear facility. Retson said they want to employee a good workforce of happy employees. He encouraged Emery County to keep this a good place to live so that people will want to live and work here. "We have been open and honest and we are trying to do this project right," said Retson.